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Swept Away: Reporting on the Encampment Closure Crisis

Written by admin on . Posted in Civil Rights, Criminalization, Tent Cities

National data suggest that only 75% of the need for emergency shelter is being met. As a result, encampments of people experiencing homelessness have sprung up as homelessness has become more visible.

With everything from sleeping bags, tents and camp stoves to tiny homes, makeshift communities are attempting to fill important gaps in shelter, housing and other social services. Homeless encampments also serve as a point of access for outreach workers and others looking to engage those experiencing homelessness.

Unfortunately, these encampments have been met with varying levels of hostility by the wider communities in which they are located. The National Coalition for the Homeless’ new report, Swept Away: Reporting on the Encampment Closure Crisis, examines the disturbing trend of forced removal of outdoor sleepers by law enforcement, city workers, or even private contractors.

“We understand that municipal governments are trying to respond to a difficult situation,” says Megan Hustings, Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, “But further displacing people who have nowhere else indoors to go is an inhumane response.”

In cities where well-publicized events are being hosted, the sweeping of homeless encampments is particularly aggressive. In the run-up to San Diego’s recent Major League Baseball All-Star Game, camp residents across the city were threatened with fines and destruction of property if they did not relocate within 72 hours, an effort repeated during the popular Comic-Con international convention. San Diego has continued to disrupt encampments on a regular basis, seemingly copying a much criticized similar effort in Denver, Colorado.

In San Francisco, California, where current law already prohibits the building of encampments, a ballot initiative with the somewhat misleading title, “Housing Not Tents,” has been introduced with the intention of allowing authorities to remove encampments with as little as 24 hours written notice and the offer of a shelter bed or the acceptance of a bus ticket. The initiative would empower the city to seize residents’ personal property and dispose of it after a set period of time.

Despite efforts to the contrary, encampment residents regularly lose life-sustaining materials like tents and blankets, but also personal property, including valuables, identification, and medications. Swept Away looks more closely at the causes behind the rise of encampments, the way various communities have chosen to confront the issue, and recommendations for how our unhoused neighbors deserve to be treated in their own communities.

Proponents of measures aimed at facilitating the removal of encampments have suggested that allowing the existence of such camps somehow enables homelessness — a notion unsupported by the lack of affordable housing nationwide. Additionally, breaking up homeless communities can leave individuals more vulnerable to those who prey upon them, as outlined in our recent report, “No Safe Street: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence Committed Against Homeless People in 2014 & 2015.”

While dedicated to ending homelessness, the National Coalition for the Homeless also recognizes the need to protect the lives of those currently experiencing homelessness, especially during times when they cannot all be housed. Cities considering urban camping restrictions should follow the lead of a select few that have already passed more humane laws regarding encampment sweeps, such as Indianapolis. Encampment residents should be given ample warning prior to a sweep, and it is imperative that cities do not immediately discard the belongings of homeless residents. Most importantly, sweeps should not be conducted without available housing and supportive services for those who are displaced as a result.

At a time when those experiencing homelessness far outnumber the number of shelter beds allocated to them, we must find a better way to serve our unhoused neighbors without destroying the camps they so often call home.

 

Read the full report.

Learn more about the Criminalization of Homelessness.

Media Blitz to focus on Homelessness June 29th

Written by Annie Leomporra on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Civil Rights, Community Organizing, Criminalization, Education, Food Sharing, LGBTQ, Policy Advocacy, Poverty, Prevention, Public Education, Tent Cities, Violence Against the Homeless

On June 29th the media of San Francisco, Seattle and DC will be having a media blitz with all day coverage on the issue of homelessness. This effort was started in San Francisco, where media organization in have agreed to put aside their differences for the day is focus on the issues of homeless–discussing root causes and collaboration to find long-term solutions. This movement is being lead by the San Francisco Chronicle, but more than 70 media organizations have agreed to participate, including radio and TV stations and online publication. Seattle and DC media organizations have expanded this effort by planning a media blitzs in their cities on the same day as well. Advocacy groups, public officials and individuals are encouraged to participate and flood all types of media sources with information about and discussion of the issue of homeless in America.

How can you join the movement?
1. Use the hashtags  #Seahomlessness for Seattle, #SFHomelessProject for San Francisco, #dcHomelessCrisis for DC as well as #endhomelessness and #June29

  1. Tweet about homelessness on Twitter
  2. Share articles about homelessness on Facebook
  3. Encourage your local media outlets to focus on covering homelessness in your area on June 29th
  4. Contact your local, state or federal government officials and let them know ending homelessness in important to you

Sources

Fuller, T. (2016). A Plan to Flood San Francisco With News on Homelessness. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/16/us/san-francisco-homelessness.html?_r=0

Homeless Crisis. Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/_HomelessCrisis

San Francisco Homeless Project. National Alliance on Homelessness. Retrieved from http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/sfhomelessproject

Hanscom, G. (2016). Homeless in Seattle: Media, community rally to address crisis. Crosscut. Retrieved from http://crosscut.com/2016/06/homeless-in-seattle-media-june-29/

Message to the Presidential Candidates

Written by Annie Leomporra on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Civil Rights, Community Organizing, Criminalization, Education, Food Sharing, Outreach, Policy Advocacy, Prevention, Public Education, Tent Cities, Violence Against the Homeless

An open letter to the candidates running for the office of the President of the United States:

We invite you to take this opportunity to reach nearly 15% of the voting public. On Wednesday, February 17th from 7:00 pm eastern time through 9:00 am on Thursday, February 18th, we hope that you will participate in the 18th annual Homeless Marathon (news.homelessnessmarathon.org/).

There are anywhere between 500,000 and 3.5 million people who will experience homelessness in the United States this year. Not to mention the almost 50 million Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, and countless more who are just one paycheck away from losing their homes!

The Homeless Marathon gives you a chance to reach thousands of these homeless and low-income voters who are looking for solutions at the Federal level. The Marathon will be broadcast on almost 100 radio stations in 40 states, online and abroad.

You are also welcome to join a rally in Lafayette Park, in front of you potential future home, the White House, on Thursday, February 18th at 8am. The producers of the Homeless Marathon will be holding a straw poll throughout the broadcast, and will be announcing the (unofficial) president that homeless and low-income voters across the country have chosen.

The Homeless Marathon is America’s only national broadcast focusing on homelessness and poverty. Please take the time to participate in this once in a life time opportunity to share your policy objects with the nation on homelessness and poverty. Your message will be shared all around the country to the most vulnerable population, people experiencing homelessness. As you know, every vote counts and your message and policies can save thousands possibly millions of lives.

For more information please visit: news.homelessnessmarathon.org or www.nationalhomeless.org.
Thank you for your attention to the needs of all Americans!

Sincerely,

The National Coalition for the Homeless

 

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